Please consider supporting our efforts.


The Law of 3's

Saturday, 06 April 2013 01:07 Written by  Craig Caudill

Survival enthusiasts often resort to the Law of Threes during training and practice runs to keep the idea top of mind. The Law of Threes is one way to remember exactly what needs to be done when things get a little crazy.


According to the Law of Threes

  • A person can only go three hours without maintaining their core body temperature
  • A person can go three days without water--hydration
  • A person can live three weeks without food

Maintain Body Temperature

Knowing what you need to survive is crucial to living through an emergency. Although many assume food and water are the first things that should be hunted down, it is really shelter a person needs to keep their core body temperature at a safe level.

To keep your body temperature up, you have two options:

  • Build a fire to stay warm
  • Set up a shelter

Building a Fire

If you feel your core body temperature beginning to drop, you need to get it up, quickly. Although you may feel cold the minute you step outside, your body temperature is still okay. It is when those deep racking shivers begin to come on that you know you are losing the battle and it is time to get a fire going. Hopefully, you have at least one way to get a fire started. When you are considering building a fire, it is important you plan the spot for your fire carefully. It needs to be in a place that the warmth generated from the fire reflects back on you. Natural elements in the landscape can be used. Two big rocks are perfect. Aluminum-backed tarps are great, but not necessary if one is not available. You may need to be creative and look hard at the landscape to find your fire reflector.


Now, when you think about shelter you are probably automatically assuming a hut made out of some debris or what not. However, the most obvious, and easiest to overlook is the clothes on your back. Clothing is the key to maintaining core temperature. Without the right clothing, you are fighting a losing battle. Cold or hot conditions are tricky and can make it difficult to keep your body temp from getting too hot or too cold. The very common cotton is a double-edged sword. It is your best friend in summer months and your worst enemy in winter months. Cotton keeps moisture on the skin, which is great for keeping the body cool during the summer but it can be deadly during the winter.

Your head is where 60 to 70 percent of your body heat escapes. Once again, hot and cold situations will require the opposite techniques. In the winter, wear a hat to retain body heat. When it is hot, you will need to remove a hat from time to time to let your body cool down.

One key piece of survival equipment you can use to stay out of the elements is a tarp. These are easily packed into a survival pack and can be utilized in a variety of ways to create an adequate shelter. This is a video of some of the different methods. Quite frankly, I strongly prefer a tarp over a debris hut.

Obtaining Water

After doing what you need in order to keep preserve your body temperature at a safe level, the second most  important item is water. Do not assume that because you find a body of water it is safe to drink. You must clean it first. Unfortunately most of the water you find is rarely safe for human consumption. With that said, sometimes you have to take the chance and drink what you can find and sometimes, it may  be rather dirty. Getting dehydrated is rather nasty business and you must do whatever you can to avoid it, even drinking water that is yucky.

One sure fire way of cleaning water is by boiling it. Plan ahead for this and have some kind of cup, bottle or stove in your survival pack for this very reason. Now, desperate times call for desperate measures and one thing I have done before is boiled water in a condom. You do with what you got. However, if you are prepared and have packed some sort of filtering device like steri-straws you can skip the condom. According to the product packaging, they promise to clean 99.99 percent of all impurities.

Another option is to use that garbage bag you hopefully have in your pack. This works two-fold. You collect water in the bag and allow the sun to heat the water, thus cleaning it. If there is no water to collect, tie the bag around some leafy foliage and let science aka condensation happen. In any of these scenarios, the water may not be what you are used to and wouldn’t be advisable to drink if there was fresh, clean tap water available, but in a survival situation, you must improvise.

Obtaining Food

After you have some sort of shelter and/or fire that will protect you from the elements of either extreme heat or extreme cold, and you have a water source, then you must now find some food.

My message concerning food probably goes against every grain in your body and that of my fellow instructors. However, I am prepared to back up my point of view. Let’s talk about the two sources of food you have to choose from:

  • Animals
  • Plants

Animal Sources

This is where I may get some people riled up. It seems so natural for a person trying to survive to go hunting for some game, big or small. I am telling you I feel your first choice should be something a little easier to snag--plants. Here is why.

  • Meat will use up 50 percent of the calories you are consuming to simply digest the product. When every calorie counts (calories=energy) you cannot afford to waste half of what you get just trying to digest it.
  • Walking around and setting traps or hunting the animal will cost you an additional 30-40 percent caloric expenditure.
  • If and when you do catch something, you must process it i.e. cleaning and cooking.

This is a risky business, because you are dangerously close to expending more calories than you can consume. If you are not convinced, refer to history. According to journals kept by the infamous explorers, Lewis and Clark, their men were allotted 20 pounds of meat per day and guess what? They were starving! The meat was not sufficient to keep up with the number of calories they were using.

Let me clarify, the other parts of the animal like blood and bone marrow are actually easily digested and will not use as many calories and are very nutritional. If you must harvest an animal, go for these parts first to get the most nutritional value out of your catch.

If you are still choosing animals, then let me advise you to use traps. Do aim small. You have better chances of catching something like squirrels and what not than a large deer. If you are in a survival situation, it does not hurt to set traps to supplement or possibly provide the only food available.

Plant Sources

For whatever reason, survival instructors tend to skip right over the possibility of eating plants. It could be because there is a significant amount of training that goes into learning what plants are safe to eat. Regardless, it does not take that much time to study the plants that are native to your area.

This is something you can even do on your own. Utilize at least 3 reliable sources to begin your studies and head out into the woods, wilderness or even the park. Easily identified plants/sources that tend to be pretty common include; grasses, cattails, nuts, berries and a variety of other goodies that are available on a seasonal basis.

There are a vast variety of plants you can eat. It is always a good idea to seek out the help of a professional plant eating expert. Remember, things like dandelions and grass could someday be your dinner. Wouldn’t you like to know which is the best part before you are forced to find out the hard way?

Craig Caudill helps to create and test the contents of 2013 survival kits for Dan’s Depot. You can see more of his work here. He is also the chief instructor at his Nature Reliance School.

Last modified on Saturday, 06 April 2013 22:29
Rate this item
(5 votes)
Login to post comments
You are here:   HomeSurviveDan's Depot ArticlesThe Law of 3's